SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG!

Singing is mentioned throughout the Bible as a way to praise God. Singing “a new song” occurs at least seven times in the Old Testament, and twice in the book of Revelation. I love old hymns (as well as the oldies and classic rock on the radio), but for those of us who are writers, the mention of “new songs” is an affirmation of our chosen vocation.

New things create change and there are always those who resist change. But the Creator has made us in His image; our imaginations and the creations that come from them, especially when used for praise, are pleasing to Him.

One of the great challenges in lyric-writing is creating something fresh and new. I find this especially true when writing for Easter or Christmas. Sometimes our ears have grown so accustomed to the stories surrounding these events that our senses are dulled to the wonder we felt when we first heard them. We “know them by heart,” and all too often we sing the words by rote. Give the singer and the listener something to contemplate; provoke them to look inward, outward, and upward.

Sometimes it seems as if an idea comes to us on wings. We don’t know where the thought came from, but we thank our lucky stars. More often than not, writing a fresh text is laborious and painstaking work. But the result is far more satisfying than simply borrowing from the Psalmist.

Here are a few ways to get started with creating something new (beginning with the less difficult):

•​Set an old text to new music

•​Write a new text to familiar music

• Find two existing songs that “partner” well, either on the same topic or complementary topics.

•​Take one memorable line or phrase from a hymn (or its title) and write a new song around that phrase.

•​Find a day and a topic in the liturgical calendar that is in short supply of anthems specifically related to it.

•​Put yourself into a Biblical event and imagine what the scene is like. Use your senses as a guide: What do you hear? What do you see? How does it feel? Write from that perspective.

• Connect two separate Scriptures together in your text (for instance, one from Old Testament prophecy and one from New Testament fulfillment). ​Your concordance can be a valuable tool in finding even more related passages and they may spark a new idea.

• Find a minor or side character in the Biblical event and write from their ​point of view or tell their story.

•​Find an inanimate object in the story to focus on (the gifts brought by the Magi) or an overlooked supporting phrase in the scripture. Write about the metaphors (I am the Gate.)

 

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Pamela Stewart is a lyricist and librettist with over 200 published works. In 2000, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure commissioned her to write a song cycle for chorus and symphony. Twice performed at Carnegie Hall, Sing for the Cure made its European premiere at Royal Festival Hall in London in 2010 and was recorded with Dr. Maya Angelou as narrator. In 2013, her song cycle for piano, solo violin, and men’s chorus entitled Tyler’s Suite debuted, benefitting the Tyler Clementi Foundation. Collaborating composers were John Bucchino, Craig Carnelia, John Corigliano, Nolan Gasser, Ann Hampton Callaway, Jake Heggie, Lance Horne, and Stephen Schwartz. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded the grant for the Suite’s recording. Her choral pieces have received both Editor’s Choice and Merit Series awards from top choral music distributors, and have been honored by Creator Magazine’s “Select 20.” Ms. Stewart lives in Austin, Texas.

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